Ryu looks like old self in scoreless outing

Left-hander goes seven innings in pitchers' duel

September 15th, 2019

NEW YORK -- has a history of rising to the challenge of a difficult matchup, of pitching well with extra rest and, this year, syncing best with veteran catcher Russell Martin.

All components were in place on Saturday night at Citi Field and Ryu locked back in like a refreshed Cy Young candidate with his best start in five weeks, dueling Mets ace Jacob deGrom on even terms in a game the Dodgers’ bullpen let get away in the eighth inning, 3-0.

The loss didn’t help the Dodgers’ bid for postseason home-field advantage, but if they are to have October success home or away, this is the version of Ryu they need. Especially when they run into elite pitchers like deGrom, the reigning Cy Young winner.

“More of what we expected from him,” manager Dave Roberts said of Ryu.

Ryu, who could not complete five innings in his previous three starts, matched deGrom with seven scoreless innings. Ryu allowed only two hits and struck out six without a walk. deGrom allowed three hits, struck out eight without a walk and grazed a batter with a pitch.

“Every pitcher will tell you, if you have a guy like deGrom going against you, you are extra focused and it puts you in a better rhythm,” said Ryu. “You get on the mound faster and it benefits you to execute your pitches.”

Reunited with Martin and pitching on five extra days of rest, Ryu regained his All-Star starter form after struggling in his previous three starts with rookie Will Smith behind the plate. While Ryu’s ERA is four runs lower with Martin catching, the improvement Saturday night also can be attributed to the extra time between starts that Ryu used to throw a rare bullpen session and work on his delivery.

“It’s hard to argue with the statement that the time off helped with these results, and having the extra bullpen session to work on the things I had to improve on definitely helped,” said Ryu. “It’s hard to say one or the other, and the bullpen session was especially helpful because I was able to explore some of the ways to work on my delivery.”

Relying on his signature changeup, Ryu retired the last 13 batters he faced, but Martin said one of the keys to Ryu’s success was the way he began the game.

“He was amazing,” said Martin. “He stayed away from the middle of the plate and got ahead of hitters. We tried to establish the fastball up and in early. When you get the hitters to honor the fastball, then you can go to the changeup and get them out in front and play the cat-and-mouse game and get them in between, and it’s a tough at-bat when he makes pitches on the corners.”

Martin downplayed his personal role in Ryu’s success, both this season and in this game. Ryu’s 1.20 career ERA against the Mets is third lowest all time (minimum 50 innings). He’s pitched at least seven scoreless innings in nine starts this year, eight of them with Martin catching.

“I’ve caught him quite a bit and he’s pitched really well when I’m behind the plate, but when you’re the catcher you’re only as good as the pitcher is,” said Martin. “He’s been outstanding. He just went through a little rough patch and I think he’s right back on track now.”

The tough opposing pitcher and low-scoring setup provided Roberts with a chance to utilize October tactics in the fateful eighth inning.

After lefty reliever Adam Kolarek struck out Robinson Cano, Roberts went with Joe Kelly, who hit Todd Frazier with his first pitch, a 96 mph fastball. With two outs, Julio Urias hit Brandon Nimmo with a 95 mph fastball. Urias walked Amed Rosario to load the bases and allowed a three-run double to pinch-hitter Rajai Davis on a 1-2 changeup to clear the bases.

"Julio missed on a fastball to Nimmo, who had a nice, big pad and just took it like a champ,” said Martin. “With Davis, sometimes a hitter does something special, and right there, Rajai did something special. If I could go back in time, I'd call a slider down and in. He hadn't seen that pitch yet. I take blame for calling a changeup. Bad call."